Belfast Telegraph

Sports Awards

O'Flaherty keen to remain in top form after cool display at Euros

By Brian Hill

Rio Olympian Kerry O'Flaherty put in her best European cross country display to finish as the third Irish woman home in yesterday's 8k European Cross Country in Samorin, Slovakia.

The Newcastle woman finished 38th behind team-mates Fionnuala McCormack (12th) and Irish Trials winner Shona Heaslip (34th). It ensured that Ireland finished seventh in the team event with 84 points, behind winners Great Britain.

Armagh's Fionnuala Ross was 47th in her first European race.

O'Flaherty, who was second in the Irish Trials, said: "This was my best European race. I felt very strong and the team packed well. The course really suited me. I am delighted with my form and am looking forward to competing in the big mixed race event in Edinburgh in the New Year."

In contrast, a downbeat McCormack, who is a two-time European winner, expressed disappointment with her performance which she put down to a change in her training. This was the Kilkoole woman's 15th European race. Turkey's Yasmin Can successfully defended her individual title.

The new three-person scoring system assisted Ireland in the Senior Men's 10k event as excellent packing by Sean Tobin (15th), Hugh Armstrong (19th) and Kevin Maunsell (24th) resulted in an impressive fifth placing with 58 points, behind winners Turkey.

Irish Trials winner Paul Pollock finished 48th and the Holywood man said: "I have to be disappointed with that result, particularly as my team-mates performed so well. I was optimistic before the race and felt good early on. I just couldn't stay with the pace in the latter stages.

"However, I'm injury-free and looking forward to the World Half Marathon in Valencia in March, followed by a marathon in the spring."

There were solid performances from two Northern Ireland athletes in the Men's U20 event, where they helped the Irish finish 10th from 20 teams.

Bangor's Craig McMeechan came 36th and was closely followed by Lisburn's James Edgar in 38th. Youghal's Fearghal Curtin was 22nd.

Irish 3,000m champion McMeechan said: "I tried my hardest and am pleased. I felt pressure in my first European race."

In the Junior Women's race, Sophie Murphy of DSD came 10th to ensure Ireland finished seventh with 71 points.

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